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Steven Crane's Role in the Literary Revolution and an Analysis of The Red Badge of Courage

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If it takes a revolutionary to topple the general way of thinking, Stephen Crane is that revolutionary for American literature. The dominant literary movement before Crane’s time, Romanticism, originated in Germany and England as a response to classicism and soon dispersed worldwide. (McKay 766). Romanticism stressed the power of the human conscience and the intensity of emotion. It was essentially a spiritual movement, fiercely conflicting with the rigid rules and standards of classicism and the restraint of the Enlightenment. The belief that all humans embodied a unique greatness was widespread. Further along in history, however, came a man who sought to destroy this confident idea from his despondent circumstances. Disenchanted by the…show more content…
Crane’s literary skills were also influenced from a very early age; his brother was a newspaper columnist who lived with him at home during his youth (Szumski 14). Similarly, his parents were “educated and civic minded, used to making persuasive speeches, admirers and cultivators of the spoken word” (Szumski 14). Even while being raised in an environment with such high moral expectations, Crane soon displayed signs of independence. He dropped out of Methodist boarding school to attend a military academy, where he developed an interest for “poker and baseball,” according to colleague Harvey Wickham (Szumski 14). Following a life path deviating more and more from his family’s traditionalist beliefs of faith and purity, it is clear that through these factors Crane would hone his literary skills to combat traditional norms. Crane’s decision to write a story in a context (the Civil War) with which he had no experience showed that this stemmed from his desire to dissect the philosophy of individualism in a setting where no societal influences exist. The fact that he also does not mention the meaning of the war and its battles demonstrates his desire to “make an ‘Everyman’ of Henry: he is any young man of any era facing a trial by fire in any battle” (Johnson 25). The groundbreaking theories of Charles Darwin, an English naturalist of his time, influenced Crane’s attack on individualism. Darwinism’s implications questioned orthodox religious
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